We’re all used to the hot air Democrats routinely expel, but sometimes what they dare to say with a straight face breaks even the hardiest Bull-o-Meter. On Wednesday, May 22, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tweeted this gem: “Republicans have corrupted the Founders’ intent. I want to make the Senate work again – that is my commitment […] The problem of gridlock is real and needs to be fixed.”
Certainly, the Founders would find the GOP wanting in several respects, but the perverse irony is that all those respects are the ones in which they accept Democrats’ premises—a national role for countless matters the Founders would have left to the states, an elastic interpretation of the Commerce Clause, government as a dispenser of financial benefits, etc. Where the two parties differ, Republicans still adhere to the Founders’ understanding of individual liberty and limited government.
Every major aspect of the Democrats’ governing philosophy is an active rejection of America’s founding principles. This is not a question of interpretation—the Founders left behind extensive writings that clarify exactly what they meant. Indeed, the very doctrine of the “living Constitution,” that the text’s meaning must change alongside each generation’s changing values, is a thinly-veiled excuse for disregarding those original explanations, and is all but an admission that “the Founders’ intent” means nothing to Reid’s party.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It’s perversely fitting that the first principle of our Declaration of Independence is the one liberals most brazenly trample. Abortion, the power to have one’s own defenseless child killed for effectively any reason, is a perfect textbook example of what “Governments are instituted among Men” to prevent, yet the Democrats embrace it as an unconditional, fundamental “right.” Abortion also exposes Democrats’ contempt for the Constitution in another way—even though numerous liberal legal minds, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, admit that the Roe v. Wade ruling is substantively bankrupt, Democrats obsessively maintain the fiction that the “right to privacy” forbids states from making their own decisions about the practice.
Liberty fares little better—whereas the Founders believed that only threats to one’s life, liberty, or property justify exercising coercive force against another, there is virtually no excuse for controlling the individual Democrats won’t accept. Where you send your kids to school, whether you carry a concealed weapon, what lightbulbs, cars, or health insurance you buy, how much of your money you keep and where it goes, countless details of voluntary employer-employee relationships…the liberal state has a hand in all of this and more. During Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings, Sen. Tom Coburn asked whether Kagan thought Congress had the authority to force Americans to eat fruits and vegetables daily. She responded that it “sounds like a dumb law,” but wasn’t necessarily unconstitutional; it would depend on whether the law identified a meaningful link between healthy eating and interstate commerce. Never mind that pesky “natural rights” stuff.
Speaking of which, Article I, Section 8’s authorization for Congress to regulate interstate commerce is Democrats’ favorite excuse for nearly all their meddling. But the Founders wouldn’t have tolerated it for a second. In Federalist 22, Alexander Hamilton explains the Commerce Clause’s actual purpose far more narrowly: to prevent states from discriminating against each other with “interfering and unneighborly regulations” which cause “injurious impediments to the intercourse between the different parts of the Confederacy,” Congress could preserve the “true spirit of the Union” by erecting uniform standards that would keep interstate commerce free-flowing. If that’s not enough, in Federalist 45 James Madison clarifies that the “powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined,” whereas the ones “which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”
Not even the values liberals give lip-service to are safe. Take free speech. Campaign-finance laws legally forbid private organizations from advertising about federal candidates within 60 days of an election. Over the years, various Democrats have longed to enact the Fairness Doctrine, which would mandate equal airtime to conservatives and liberals. And Democrats are more likely to favor college speech codes to clamp down on politically-incorrect student expression. Consider, for instance, the Obama Administration’s recent letter to the University of Montana, meant as a “blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country,” which replaced the Supreme Court’s definition of sexual harassment as “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” with merely “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal” conduct.
Much more could be said, of course—disregarding religious liberties in crafting contraception mandates, usurping numerous powers left to the states, vesting vast lawmaking power in unelected, extra-constitutional agencies, the Justice Department attacking voter ID laws under the guise of fighting racial discrimination, and Reid’s very complaints about “gridlock” forgetting that the Founders wanted the legislative process to be much slower and more deliberative than the “pass it to find out what’s in it” approach that spawned ObamaCare—but hopefully the above suffices to expose Reid’s posturing as a sham. Yet still he says it. It’s a sad commentary on the GOP’s messaging prowess that Democrats get away with such brazenly hypocritical attacks.